World’s Best Brewery? It’s Local.

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February 9, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Tom Keith

Nick Floyd is one tough dude. As Randy Mosher described him here, ““Nick is wild. He’s tattooed … He’s just kind of a biker sort of guy. A big, big personality and really likes his beers huge, and crazy, and youth oriented.”

He’s a tough dude when competing as a brewmaster, too. Website Ratebeer.com just summarized over 2.47 million reviews of 110,000 beers from over 9,680 breweries. Only one of those breweries could be the best. And it’s in an unassuming industrial park in Munster, Indiana. It’s Nick Floyd’s place, Three Floyds.

Three Floyd's welcomer

Three Floyd's welcomer

I asked Nick if he’d seen the ratings. His response was surprisingly low-key. “Uh, yeah, I guess we’re number one. It’s great. It’s like, I can’t complain. It’s the public and beer enthusiasts voting, so yeah, it’s great news. I know we’ve been at the top of their lists for a while, and it’s good to see that, y’know, number one. I’m sure other brewers don’t feel we’re the best brewers in the world, but I guess it’s an honor. It’s cool.”

The Midwest was well represented by many of our other breweries, too. Founders of Grand Rapids, Michigan came in as the world’s fourth best brewery, followed closely in fifth place by its neighbor in Kalamazoo, Bell’s. New Glarus, in Wisconsin, reached # 17, (and Dan Carey has some great things planned there). Chicago’s Goose Island came in at # 26, Flossmoor Station, in the south suburbs, rated # 75, and Jon Cutler’s Piece, on North Avenue in Chicago, snuck into the top 100 at # 96.

Regionally, it’s no surprise that the West Coast had the most breweries among the top fifty, with 15, but the Midwest beat out all of Europe in terms of the number of breweries in the top fifty, with 11 and 10, respectively.

Top ten individual beers in the world? Three are from Nick – all versions of his Dark Lord Imperial Stout — # 4 Three Floyds Oak Aged Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout, # 5 Three Floyds Vanilla Bean Barrel Aged Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout, and # 7 Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout.

Other local beers were among the world’s top rankings, too. # 11 was Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, at # 12 was Bells Bourbon Barrel Double Cream/Expedition Stout, # 14 Bell’s Expedition Stout, # 15 Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout, and # 21, Bell’s Hopslam.

There’s an obvious bias for big, dark beers here. And, frankly, I don’t give much credence to these kinds of lists, in general. But they’re entertaining to read, especially when they support the position, as I do, that the Midwest has a great, somewhat under-appreciated beer scene. So let’s keep looking at more from Ratebeer:

What about other styles? In the Strong Lager category, # 4 was Three Floyds Decimator Doppelbock. The top three specialty beers were all local – # 1 was Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock (Warren, Michigan), # 2 New Glarus Raspberry Tart, and # 3 New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red.

The best pale ale in the world? Three Floyds BlackHeart English IPA. Among the top five IPAs, you’ll find Nick again, with his Three Floyds Dreadnaught Imperial IPA at # 2, narrowly edging out John Mallett’s Hopslam from Bell’s for # 3.

Three Floyds Behemoth Barleywine eked its way into the top five Strong Ales, as did Founders Porter in the Porter category.

World’s best American Pale Ale? Three Floyds Alpha King, with a nod to Chicago’s newcomer Half Acre’s Daisy Cutter at # 4.

Also interesting – The Map Room, on Armitage in Chicago, was rated the 48th best beer bar in the world.

There are a number of locals in the world’s best brewpubs category — at # 22, The Livery in Benton Harbor, Michigan (which we wrote about here), followed by Villa Park, Illinois’ Lunar Brewing at # 23. Three Floyds and Flossmoor’s Flossmoor Station came in at # 25 and # 26, respectively, with Goose Island Clybourn at # 30.

Congrats to those getting recognition. It’s a great time to be drinking local beer.

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3 Comments

  1. Martin says:

    Curious, where do the ingredients hale from for these local brews?

    • Tom Keith says:

      Without knowing the specifics from each brewery, it’s likely most of the barley comes from the Prairie States (both US and Canada) and is malted in Minnesota or Wisconsin. For specific beers, it’s also likely that they’re using German, Belgian or British malts. Domestic hops are almost assuredly from Washington State, but again, many use European hops, also (and Argentina produces an interesting version of Cascade hops).

      It’s an interesting topic – what constitutes local? We’ll be addressing that in a future article. Stay tuned!

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